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Do We Have An Arrogance Problem at the University of Minnesota?

Perhaps Some Humility is in Order, Bob?


Mr. Michael McNabb is a local attorney with strong ties to the University. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from the U and his children are also graduates. He is a lifetime member of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association.

I am very impressed by his public-spiritedness and have previously posted on his activities with respect to the takeover of WCAL by the Klingon empire.

See: The WCAL Outrage, At Least One Judge Won't Stand For It

Mr. McNabb has written OurLeader, President Bruininks, a letter dated June 30, 2008. He has kindly given me permission to use it. The full text is available for download at one of my Google Pages websites.

Excerpts from the letter:

It will not be productive for the University to increase the financial pressures on its students (and their parents). The University needs their support to develop a successful legislative strategy.

A different attitude must accompany a new approach to the legislature. Several years ago a former state senator, who was a leader in his caucus, used the word "arrogant" to describe to me the attitude of the University administration. That remark surprised me. However, the chair of the House Capital Investment Committee recently used the same word in public remarks about the University. We have a problem here. It is more difficult to successfully execute a legislative strategy when the chair of the committee that must approve University bonding bills has the perception that the University is dismissive of the legislature.

There is a simple way to change that continuing perception of the University at the legislature. A senior University administrator should visit each representative and state senator in person and ask that legislator what the University should do to improve its performance at the legislature.

As we develop a new legislative strategy, we also need to examine our objectives for the University. A goal of becoming one of the top three public research institutions in the world is illusory as there is no recognized authority to certify that such a goal has been attained. Such talk diverts attention from the real challenges facing the University that are the consequences of the failure to secure the support of the legislature.

There is also a danger of placing too much emphasis on research. A disproportionate allocation of resources to research would have an adverse effect on the equally important task of teaching our children.

In the latest U.S. News & World Report survey (widely used despite its flaws), the national rankings of the graduate schools at the University are as follows (private and public institutions/public institutions only):

Biological sciences 34/17
Chemistry 22/12
Engineering 24/12
Research medical schools 36/18
Physics 23/14
Business 27/13
Earth sciences 21/12
Mathematics 17/7
Law 22/8
Computer science 31/18

While we should certainly strive for excellence, our goals should also be realistic and subject to objective measurement as much as possible. We need to develop an effective strategy to enlist the support of the governor, the legislature, the students and their parents to achieve those goals.

To become "one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]" shouldn't we first improve incrementally? Become one of the better schools in the BigTen, perhaps?

But, no, OurLeader will have none of this. To suggest such a thing is to be labeled "a doubter."

"I've heard some of the 'doubters' say things like, 'I'd settle for best in the Big Ten," he [Bruininks] said. "Students don't choose the University of Minnesota for (a) mediocre future."

Such a statement certainly seems both arrogant and foolish.

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